What would you do to spend your days reliving and mucking about in your childhood fantasies and passions? If you are an 80â€™s child like Scott Klauder, you would do just about anything. Lucky for him, everything fell nicely in to his lap and he now sits as international production manager of the elite comic and fantasy toy company Sideshow Collectibles. Sideshow is renowned for going above and beyond their clienteleâ€™s expectations, painstakingly recreating movie and comic characters, constantly revamping them with new dioramas, scenarios, models and concepts.
â€œThe first 2000 AD comic I got, I asked my mom to hold it for a minute while I was playing video games and she just folded it up and put it in her purse. I was like â€œOh my god! Youâ€™re not supposed to do that with comics!â€
Format: Howâ€™s your day going?
Scott Klauder: Good so far. I got in today and there was a big stack of boxes from overseas. Every morning we get samples from our factories that we need to review. Itâ€™s like Christmas every morning. I love it.
Format: How did you get started with sideshow?
Scott Klauder: I used to work for a small toy company outside of Philadelphia. That used to carry their collectables. When I got out of there, my sales rep at the time, Donna Ferguson, asked if I wanted a job because I was such a nerd. She would always be calling me up and ask questions that she didnâ€™t know the answer to. So I started with wholesale for Sideshow, and then about two years later I was offered to come out and work in Production. I moved to California and Iâ€™ve been here for four years managing overseas production. Itâ€™s pretty cool. Obviously like any job, there are problems with stuff like shipment dates, and we have to go overseas to the factories in Asia about four times a year. But other than a few tedious details, itsâ€™ just awesome. You canâ€™t ask for much more than to work on stuff that you grew up with as a kid. Not to make anyone jealous or anything, hehe.
Format: What are your earliest memories of comic books?
Scott Klauder: I messed around with comics when I was pretty young but I didnâ€™t really start reading and collecting till I sprained my ankle when I was twelve. My buddy Bobby from around the corner brought me a pile of early New Mutants that Bill Sienkiewicz was drawing, I got a real kick out of that. I also got in to the 2000 AD, Johnny Alpha, Judge Dredd, that stuff from the UK, which were really cool too. I actually remember the first 2000 AD comic I got, I asked my mom to hold it for a minute while I was playing video games and she just folded it up and put it in her purse. I was like â€œOh my god! Youâ€™re not supposed to do that with comics!â€
I collected comics up in to my teenage years. I used to spread them out on the floor number them, store them in bags and do all that sort of thing. Back then, I had maybe one box that I would put them in, but now I have a whole bookshelf behind me at my office, one at home, and then three or four boxes.
When I was in the Marine Corps, all I did was read comics. I was the guy who was sitting there in full uniform leafing through comics. Good use of taxpayers money, hey? Haha.
Format: So did comics influence your decision with Marines?
Scott Klauder: Yeah, definitely. Along with all the cartoons I was watching in the 80s like GI Joe, Thundercats, Transformers, Speed Racer, Robotech. Iâ€™m still nuts about all of them and they definitely pushed me in that direction. When I was in school, the first thing I would do with my notebooks was to sketch stuff like X-Wing Tie Fighters and Speed Racer images. That actually led to me going to art school and getting a degree in illustration. Itâ€™s funny because I just got on Facebook and I have 120 people that I connected with in the last few weeks. None of them are surprised when I tell them Iâ€™m working with a collectible comic company.
Format: Cool, we have a great appreciation for illustrators at Format.
Scott Klauder: Well, I went to Hudson School of Art in Philadelphia, and got an associate degree in illustration. From there, I started to submit my own comics to Marvel, DC and Broadway, when they were still around. I didnâ€™t get all that far but I still have the rejection letters signed by guys like Jim Shooter, and the Marvel and DC heads. Itâ€™s tough, you really have to put a lot in to it, well, at least, more than I did. I was working another job at the time, and maybe I was a little too cautious about it. However, itâ€™s still totally possible for anyone to get in to the industry. Itâ€™s all about how hard you want to bust your ass and work the hustle. For some people it takes years, but some get hired on the spot because someone really liked their work.
The best piece of advice that I heard was from Jeff Darrow, who I met at a comic convention. He said, youâ€™ve got good stuff going on, but your problem is that â€œyouâ€™re talking to me. Youâ€™re an artist; youâ€™re trying to take money out of my pocket. Donâ€™t talk to me because Iâ€™ll just break down your work. You need to talk to editors and writers, theyâ€™re the kind of people you want to get in with. Theyâ€™ll give you good direction.â€
Format: What is your toy collection looking like these days?
Scott Klauder: Right now, I have every figure from the Transformers animated series; I get a good kick out of it. Theyâ€™re in to season 3 and I really hope they keep going with it. Underneath that I have Transformers universe which are sort of like re-doâ€™s of all the generation 1 characters with some other stuff thrown in. At home, I have I have Transformers masterpiece, which are the really expensive, $150 die-cast metal figures. I have the Vinyl Tech and Alternator ones, which are all licensed like, Dodges, and Mustangs. Threes also this new Alternity line from Japan of which I have the Convoy, which is what they call Optimus Prime, over there. I also have all the 25th anniversary GI Joe stuff. I collected them until I was 14 or 15 and then they mysteriously disappeared.
Format: Are those the originals or the Sideshow editions?
Scott Klauder: Yeah, those are the 2 and 3/4â€ figures. Interestingly enough, they were used as part of the research for the Sideshow line. We wanted them to look as much like the cartoon as possible, but to have a nice modern take as well. A lot of the time, our artists will come by and just pull them off the shelf to see what kind of grenade heâ€™s carrying or to see other details with their gear. The other thing with GI Joes is that they all have their own colour schemes, for example Dukeâ€™s got the tan and green. They often use my collection as a quick reference guide. I also have the 12â€ Snake Eyes they just released. Of course, I work for the company, but I still think they did a phenomenal job with him I also have zombies from one end of the shelf to the other, from The Dead Series we did.
Format: Do you collect any designer vinyl?
Scott Klauder: I donâ€™t but when I go to visit the factories in Hong Kong, I always make a stop in Mong Kok, which is a part of Kowloon where they just have toy shop after toyshop. If any toy collector is looking for an exotic vacation, itâ€™s a great spot to visit; and the weathers not bad either, hehe. I usually come home with at least $300 of toys when I visit, and Iâ€™ve never seen as much vinyl there than anywhere else in my life. They even have a toyshop at the airport on Landau Island!
In terms of vinyl, we donâ€™t do very much of it, but we work sometimes with Medicom. More specifically with the Darth Vader release last year, they sent us some blanks that we customized. One was done in to a sort of Kevlar knight. Another one was a DJ that had gold rings that said VADER, and his helmet was flipped backwards and said Taunting with a little character on it.
I got my son a Star Wars Mighty Muggs for his second birthday. I thought he would have a blast with it when he got older, and itâ€™s not like there are any small parts he could hurt himself with. We also do distribution for Hot Toys and Medicom with some hot stuff coming out pretty soon.
Format: Do you have any favourite toys?
Scott Klauder: Like I said, Iâ€™m really in to the Transformers these days. People at my work sort of roll their eyes at me, like, â€œReally dude? When are you going to stop?â€ Hehe. I even have an Optimus Prime Mickey Mouse, that oneâ€™s pretty weird. The 12â€ GI Joes coming out are very time consuming. Weâ€™ve been waiting on them for so long, I just canâ€™t wait for them to come out. You look at them and it just makes you want to watch the cartoon again. Transformers and GI Joeâ€™s will always be my thing.
Format: Are there any comic book character sculpts that Sideshow hasnâ€™t done that you would like to see happen?
Scott Klauder: Iâ€™d like to see a Deadpool, heâ€™s awesome. Iâ€™m behind on the stuff from a few years go but Iâ€™m just catching up. I just read the Cable/Dead pool series that Mark Brooks did, and that was hilarious. Iâ€™d also like to see more of the cosmic guys; Inhumans, Silver Surfer, guys like Nova, Thanos, and The Celestials. Not a lot of people realize that there are as many Marvel superheroes off of Earth as on Earth. Iâ€™m just really in to them after reading the Conquest and Annihilation books.
Format: A lot of the sculpts you produce are collaborative projects. Can you tell us about the process?
Scott Klauder: We play with the strengths of the artists that we have on hand. Someone thatâ€™s really good with technical stuff will get that, a guy who is more solid with alien or monster heads will get that work. A guy thatâ€™s good with portraits, same thing. Over all, our artists are phenomenal at everything they do. We have to have the Star Wars or Lord of The Rings jobs nailed 100% every time or else we get big problems from the licensers. The likeness for the size of the figures they deal with is incredible. These figures are less than 12â€ tall, thatâ€™s a pretty small head, and they always get it dead on.
Along with the in-house and freelance artists, as well as our cut and sew people. They tailor the outfits so that they donâ€™t like weird or puffy like something you might find at Toys â€˜R Us. We have a development team which gets outsourced from time to time. We also have a coordinating team that makes sure the work is distributed properly and gets funneled in to my department, production. I make sure that we have everything we need, including instructions for our factories over in Asia so that they can start the production. Itâ€™s a pretty long process and usually takes 9 months to a year for from concept to finish, if not longer.
â€œWhen I was in the Marine Corps, all I did was read comics. I was the guy who was sitting there in full uniform leafing through comics. Good use of taxpayers money, hey? Haha.â€
Format: How do you feel about comic book characters being changed in movies these days, and the inevitable need to reproduce the figure differently from the way it would be in the books?
Scott Klauder: Itâ€™s very tough for me as a fan. When you read the books you have this preconceived notion of what the character should look and sound like, or else you risk being disappointed. Iâ€™ve done that before, and sometimes, Iâ€™m not too happy with it. I get it on a business level, because if you have X amount of people reading the comic, you know theyâ€™re going to see the movie, but you also have to try to make it appeal to those who might know the characters, but havenâ€™t read the last 20 years. So, I get it, but Iâ€™m not happy with it every time, more so than less. There are a lot of cool movie characters that they could have done better.
Format: Sideshow Collectible figures are a in a bit more of a premium price range. How do you justify the price points?
Scott Klauder: Itâ€™s true, we do cater to a very specific audience and our figures are definitely an investment. Some people might be dissuaded by the price tags, but for the most part, they arenâ€™t. Our prices have risen slightly over the few years, but we havenâ€™t punched them up too high. Youâ€™re also not getting the same product you were getting a year ago. Itâ€™s something more superior to what it used to be, and we have to factor in the uptake of prices overseas because of things like cost of oil. We also always insist on the best quality with our factories, and that costs more as well. As well, we understand that fans are in it for the long run. We are creating their icons for them, so we try to give them the best their money can buy. Especially now with the economy, we donâ€™t want to be wiping out some guys bank account because he wants to collect stuff. You also have to realize that our models are limited editions; once theyâ€™re gone, theyâ€™re gone.
We also offer a number of services at our website (www.sideshowcollectibles.com) where we accommodate to collectors. One of them is called Flex-Pay, which lets customers pay in installments for months before the product is actually released. We have a full customer service staff that runs our website. We also do replacement parts, or wish lists in case someone misses out and another person cancels an order. Weâ€™re trying our best to get our products in to the hands of the people that love them.
Format: So whatâ€™s in the future for Sideshow?
Scott Klauder: More. More of everything, haha! We just announced at Christmas that we are doing 3-d format Disney figures. Weâ€™re still doing Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Transformers. Newer projects include Dinosauria and The Dead. We also just announced a licensed Black Beard The Pirate 3-D format line.
Youâ€™ll be able to find us at Comiccon at the same place as last year, the giant booth in the middle right next to DC. Weâ€™ll have more stuff, more licenses, and more new pieces. Weâ€™re just chugging along at a good pace and things are good. Weâ€™re not going anywhere any time soon.